What I've learned in the last 50 days
So I have been living in Daegu, South Korea for almost 2 months now and this being my 5th overseas tour but my first in Asia, there has been a few things I have learned.
1. The nicest people on earth are hands down the Koreans. I love how they bow down when they greet you, kinda makes you feel like royalty. They help you out even when there is a language barrier, I am becoming very proficient speaking with my hands and they just go about life even though there are foreigners running around, oohing and aahhhing at every little thing. They put up with it. With a smile. Buuuuuuttttttttt get them behind the wheel of a car and they have turned from kind, nice, respectful Asian people to crazy, erratic, acts like they can't read a street sign lunatics. I got the chance to finally drive in town the other day. I was white knuckled, fear in my eyes, gripping that steering wheel as though my life depended on it. The locals were driving around me, driving on the sidewalks, and blaring their car horn. The minute they park, and step out of their car, they convert right back to those kind, nice, respectful people that I spoke about earlier. I have no idea what it is that makes them act like that, maybe it's a weird air freshener that they are inhaling as they drive, maybe it's something in the cloth of the seats, whatever it is, I am going to have to drive on the defense every single time just to make it home in one piece.
2. Korea is very westernized. They are trying very hard to have this country look like the US, sorta. They have a great underground subway system, they are building a monorail, a'la Disney World, to get around in. Taxis are the norm. Streets are lined with bistros, cafes, coffee shops, clothing stores, furniture places and restaurants. If you mixed in more races here it would almost look like living in New York City. With that said there are clearly huge differences here. The main difference being, in Texas the malls span blocks and blocks, here malls are upright, meaning it is 10-12 stories tall. This is due to inadequate spacing in the city and because this is what they are good at. High rise buildings. They have vendors driving up and down the streets selling their items via a loud microphone attached to the top of their trucks. Bok Choy anyone? On every block there is guaranteed to be at least two coffee shops, because they LOVE their coffee. One major difference that I see in the cultures is their need/want of recycling. I challenge anyone to walk down downtown Daegu and look for a trash can. You may find one,if your lucky but what you will find is recycling bins because they are all about recycling. This is one thing I wish the US would jump on board with. You can even be fined in your apartment complex of you are caught putting cans in the trash. Yes they video tape the trash/recycling area and they will watch it and you will be fined. Another thing I have noticed is that they cover up. The sun is NOT their friend. They don't want dark skin and as an American I am all about tanning. SPF what?
3. The food is fantastic. It's spicy and fresh and tantalizing. I have nothing bad to say about the food here, except they do eat dog here still, but I was told that this is a practice that is going out of style. Thankfully! Oddly they only eat large dogs, as they dote on the little fluffy breeds and push them in strollers. Not sure what that's about but other than that. Food is fantastic. Definitely worth coming here just to eat. You will be seduced with their spice sides, including but not limited to pickled radishes, spicy cucumbers, all sorts of versions of kimchee, bean sprouts, these little rice noodles that I am not even going to attempt to spell, fried anchovies, seaweed and really I could keep going but you get the picture. They have amazing dishes like Jjimduk, Binbimbop, Galbi, ramen (the real kind, not the college-student ones) and Bulgogi to name a few. Yes, please google them and find a recipe....they are not hard to make!! They apparently are famous for the ades, Lemonade, limeade, mangoade, strawberryade.....basically if it's a fruit it can be an ade.
I have been fortunate enough to try a few places that sell Italian food i.e. pizzas. And from a chick whose lived in Italy for a grand total of 9 years, I can say that the pizza here is fantastic. Not similar to Italian pizza at all, but a Korea's version thats equally fabulous. Thinly crusted gorgonzola pizza dipped in honey, bulgogi pizzas, diavola pizza and pizza with shrimp and corn. Lets not forget about their pasta, they have this one pasta dish that's basically a bread bowl hollowed out and filled with carbonara. Last but not least I have to touch on their desserts. I have seen dessert shops in Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Spain and many, many other European countries and the Koreans rank right up there with them. Beautifully artistic, just a tad sweet, and many many flavors I could never imagine putting together but they work. Also, I have to mention a special Ice Cream because my friend here would never forgive me, there is a ice cream here where it looks like a ice cream sandwich but the "bread" part is actually a cone and then the filling in vanilla ice cream and sweet red bean paste. The whole thing is shaped like a fish. It rocks. It's the new crack.
I have to stop talking about the food now because I am getting hungry.
4. Lastly, the shopping. If you are in the market for kitchen ware i.e. pots and pans, bento boxes, chopsticks. Your in the right place. If you are trying to buy electronics, eh, it's way more costly here. Which is odd since this place is the wifi, super speed internet, everything is touch screened, even the toilet has options, kinda place. If you are over a size 6, clothing for you is basically nonexistent. If your wear a shoe size that is bigger than a 7, good luck finding shoes to buy. Though I haven't really looked for clothes for my 11 year old daughter I have browsed a few places only to discover that I can't really find stuff for her out here. Baby clothes, check. Adult clothes, as long as you are thin, check. Shoes, check. Preteen clothes, not so much. Gonna keep looking though. Clearly their adolescent kids are dressed and unless they are hand sewing these clothes they are buying it from somewhere. I have discovered that there is a Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, KFC, Mc Donalds, Burger King, Bennigans, TGIFridays and of course my favorite, Starbucks. I have also seen a 7-11 and an Abercrombie & Fitch ( which is 3 blocks down from my apartment) Ethan Allen, Foot locker, Northface and an H&M. Once I hit all those stores I will come back and report to y'all what I find. I am grateful they have familiar stores here for when I am homesick. I kinda wish they would speed things up and get with the program and bring in the important store. Target.
Thank you if you have read all they way through my thoughts. I am still living in family lodging on base and have exactly 2 weeks before we move into our apartment. I am both excited and scared at the change of moving out of my safe bubble and away from the routine I have created to keep my sanity into basically living on the top floor of my apartment complex in the complex world of Korea. Hopefully the views makes my transition easier.
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